Growing Onion Sets
Part 2

Dateline: 19 April 2016
(click pictures for enlarged views)

Last year I tried growing some Copra onion sets. The idea being, I would get them started, dig them up, put them in a garden clamp for the winter, then uncover them and replant in the spring. I wrote about it At This Link

The onions grew real well. That's them in the above picture, just before covering with straw and earth for the winter months.

I envisioned that I would open the clamp in the spring, and find the onions pretty well preserved. I would then trim the tops and they would look much like the Copra onion sets I buy from Dixondale Farms every year. Here's a picture showing bunches of onion sets like I usually buy...

So, this afternoon I went out and dug up my onions. And this is what I found...

That's not what I had hoped for. They are slimy and mostly rotted, and they stink. A few have a bit of solid bulb in them, and I'll try planting them to see what happens. 

Meanwhile, I'll be planting some Copra onion seeds directly in my garden to see if they might make a decent bulb before fall harvest. Apparently, some people can do this, but I've never heard of it in my area.

Fortunately, I also ordered some sets from Dixondale Farms back in January. They should be getting here any day now.


Everett R Littlefield said...

Hi Herrick, So what do you think went wrong with the clamp? Not deep enough or not covered with enough straw?
I started a whole package of Red Spanish onions in a tray around the middle of Feburary and right now they are about 6-8" tall but no bulb to speak of yet. Was going to set them in the garden this weekend and hope for some eatable ones late in the fall. Also started a bunch of Walla-Walla from seed in an other plot and am hoping to winter them over this fall for next year. Harvest some to eat some and replant to make seeds hopefully. Never tried that before.

Just started a bunch of Leeks using the patented HKimball method of"Trench,water,seed,vermiculite,board on top" . Expecting to see them moving the boards up by four days!:)
Take care, Everett

Herrick Kimball said...


I didn't put any ventilation shaft in the clamp. That might have been the problem. I don't know. Perhaps I should have trimmed and bunched them in the fall and just put them in the crisper drawer of our fridge. Starting from seed in a tray inside is probably the better way to go. I'm going to start a tray tomorrow and plant some seeds outdoors and see which does better.

I'm sure your leeks will do well with that method. You can make a YouTube video titled "Four-Day Leeks."

I couldn't find the article about your garden in the BI newspaper. Can you tell me the title?

On another note, my wife and I have decided to buy the Captain Benjamin Littlefield seaside farm on Block Island. It looks like just what we've been looking for. Five acres and some vintage buildings. A real bargain at only 1.9 million.

I assume the Captain was one of your ancestors. Was he a pirate captain? Are there any buried treasure stories in the family history. :-)

Steve Carrow said...

Herrick- they say we can learn more from failures than successes, but with gardening, you can lose a whole year for the next try! Smart of you to have backup plans. Anyway, thanks for sharing one of your few failures.

Herrick Kimball said...


For sure!.... But at some point along my gardening journey I figured out that new ideas are best experimented with on a small scale before implementing them on a larger scale. Thanks for the comment.

the Welmers said...


I have been thinking about planting onions in a he fall directly in he garden and letting them overwinter there. There is a chance they would die from the cold but we have grown some green onions befor and they started growing as soon as the snow and ice was gone. So it would be an interesting test to do.

I live in zone 4b so it should be a similar climate as you.

Have you thought about trying that?

Elizabeth said...

Oh how disappointing! That was such a great experiment and I was watching your results so maybe I could try the same here @ zone 4. I don't mind ordering onion sets but mail ordering options might not always be available. And oh how I love onions. I would so miss having onions in our diet!

loren said...

I tried Egyptian Walking Onions for the first time. Plant them one time and leave what you don't eat in the ground. They came through a Wisconsin winter just fine and are over a foot tall now.

Everett R Littlefield said...

Herrick, The article was in the 2016 Spring and Garden section. It might not show in the archives
until this Friday, that would be a week after it was published.

Yeah, all the Littlefields were/are related here on BI. Although over the 100's of years, many young ladies from America have been imported to keep us from resembling some places in Appilachia

Last year was my first attempt at leeks and we raised Johnny's King Lear? I think it was. They were very prolific and we ate so much French cold soup, who's name I cannot spell,that I was beginning to talk like Maurice Chevalier!!

No Pirates in the literal sense of the word, but I'm sure they might have "pirated" something or other in the long family saga! Regards Everett

Herrick Kimball said...

the Welmers—
Yes, I have thought about trying that too. I think it would work better than doing what I did.

Same here. We love onions. Rarely a day goes by that we are not eating our own onions in some form.

I grew those years ago and they did very well, but my wife didn't use them. But I also grew kale for several years before she started using it, and now kale is a big deal part of our diet. I'll have to try the walking onions again!

I will keep checking for the article.